This weekend was the 25th anniversary of our local children’s theater group. The Children’s Theatre of Elgin was founded by two brothers, both of whom are attorneys, and is dedicated to “live theater for children, by children”. Parent volunteers provide most of the labor, while grants allow them to use of state of the art theater facilities. The group puts on four shows a year with student performers ranging from ages seven to twenty one, depending on the show. What a great, creative outlet for your visual learner this summer!
Our family is especially fond of this group because we “discovered” ourselves through our fourteen-year involvement. All three of our daughters sang, danced, memorized lines and performed as part of a non-competitive ensemble. They laughed, played and worked towards a common goal, while satisfying so many of their visual-spatial needs. As a parent volunteer, I designed costumes, sewed, painted sets, put on makeup and styled hair, satisfying my own visual-spatial, creative needs.
In my book, Being Visual, I share what it was like to work with a wide variety of theater artisans, professional and non-professional, and how the balance of left and right-brain abilities affected the production as well as performers. But the real story is the way participation in live theater affected our young students. Our song and dance revues provided music and dance lessons, and plenty of fun, social interaction. We also did shows like Charlotte’s Web, Peter Pan, Joseph and Footloose. But one of my fondest memories happened during rehearsals for Les Miserables, when Jean Valjean led us through our first whole cast read through. As Jean Valjean sang, a young man that is currently on Broadway performing in Jersey Boys, every member of the cast knew they were part of something significant. I watched as the emotion of the music and storyline swept through the room, until each performer understood that the strength of each individual affected the whole. I saw them, week after week, cheer for and support each other in ways beyond what we’d experienced in previous shows. They had been profoundly affected by the show’s message and the shared experience.
We are enormously thankful for the opportunities given to us by the founders, leaders and legions of volunteers in this organization. They taught, led, empowered, enriched and gave enormous joy to so many children and adults in their 25 years.